Thousands of people have given advice to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about the future of the Colorado River and the two main reservoirs—Lake Mead and Lake Powell—that support it.
Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona and Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona have suffered from a regional drought for years. Excessive water usage is depleting the Colorado River faster than natural weather patterns can fill it. An above-average snowfall and excessive precipitation in the spring bolstered the water levels at Lake Powell and Lake Mead, but many officials believe that the reservoirs will never return to full capacity.
Drought and excessive water use have severely impacted levels in the Colorado River, which has lost more than 10 trillion gallons over 21 years. The dwindling water supply is impacting the efficiency of hydropower at the Glen Canyon Dam in Arizona and creating drought issues downstream at Lake Mead.
The issue has pushed the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to ask organizations and individuals for suggestions on the future of the Colorado River through public comment. Thousands of people answered.
Many letters supported the Fill Mead First proposal, advocating for a bypass through Glen Canyon Dam so that the Colorado River would flow directly into Lake Mead, meaning that Lake Powell would cease to exist. The dramatic plan also sparked backlash among several individuals, as well as Native American tribes and the BlueRibbon Coalition, a national recreation group.
The Fill Mead First idea was originally proposed by the Glen Canyon Institute, which has urged the Bureau of Reclamation to construct tunnels for the Colorado River to completely bypass the Glen Canyon dam—therefore eliminating Lake Powell. The Glen Canyon Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to restoring Glen Canyon.
However, countless others urged the Bureau to avoid that route and reminded officials of the recreational potential at Lake Powell. One man wrote in about how he met his wife and then became engaged at Lake Powell. Another person told the Bureau about her family memories on the lake.
“Powell has a special place in mine and so many others hearts and watching the water levels drop is very sad. So sustaining water levels to the lake would mean everything to so many people,” she said.